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Motherhood is a professional business;FE Focus

Kevin Berry visits childcare workers who are boosting opportunities for black and Asian women

SHABANA Khan used to be a cr che worker, now she has her own childcare business and other Asian housewives could soon be following her example.

Shabana looked after children at Grow, a Leeds organisation concerned with advancing opportunities for Black and Asian women. It offers a basic pre-childcare course at its Chapeltown base and encourages women to work towards a nursery nurse childcare qualification from the city's Park Lane College. Shabana liked the look of Grow's childcare course, enrolled and went on to gain further qualifications.

Shabana says: "I have always been interested in looking after children. One woman was able to take a computer course because I was looking after her children."

There is a growing need for childcare places in Leeds - the booming birthrate in Asian families and increasing awareness of opportunities for women outside the home have put great pressure on available places.

Grow's co-ordinator Bridget Robinson wants to give childcare some status and to point women in the direction of other courses for employment opportunities. It is fundamentally about personal development and self-confidence, she says.

She says: "We seek to build up confidence within the home and part of that is around childcare; the stages of child development and general health, encouraging children to walk and to talk, the mother playing with her child."

Bridget adds: "It is not just about education. It's about making positive decisions. A woman saying 'I'm taking this opportunity to stay at home and be with my child, but it's a decision based on what I want to be right now'. In that respect we are not like a normal training base. It is perfectly OK for a woman to say 'I want to stay at home because at the moment I'm not ready to enter employment'."

The course highlights issues such as first aid and using the emergency services. Many Asian mums will telephone their husbands at work to ask what to do rather than dial 999 themselves, because the emergency services, says Bridget, have a limited number of operators who can speak an Asian language.

"The initial treatment of the child is not always what is needed. There are also delays at the hospital because the mothers cannot explain what has happened. " Grow's pre-childcare programme incorporates the St John Ambulance first aid course. Up to eight women are on the pre-childcare course at any one time. Initially it lasted 11 weeks but flexibility is being built in to cover domestic timetables. Initial feelings of suspicion and mistrust from husbands have largely been overcome.

"Some of the women on the course are actually professionals who have come over from Asian countries," says Bridget. "We've got an obstetrician and a gynaecologist who cannot get a work permit. To me they are over-qualified but they need to be doing something.

"They are learning our way of childcare. And then we have women who have no qualifications, who can't speak a word of English."

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